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MBA Jobs in Canada: The Recruitment Landscape

Recruitment landscape and MBA jobs in Canada

MBA jobs in Canada are the similar to other countries when it comes to the types of roles on offer, but there are some differences. For example, the Canadian job market is smaller than the US job market. Work visas, which can allow international students to stay in the country for three years following graduation, are another important difference for those looking for MBA jobs in Canada. To learn more about MBA jobs in Canada, from the overall landscape to regional differences and employment trends, TopMBA.com spoke to career services directors from UBC Sauder, Ivey Business School and the Rotman School of Management.

Distinct characteristics of the Canadian job market

“I’d say in that terms of the MBA jobs, it’s not that much different than any of the other markets. All of the typical MBA jobs in terms of consulting and finance are here,” states Martina Valkovicova, assistant dean at UBC Sauder School of Business’ careers center.

While this means that all the traditional big players in MBA hiring will be in evidence, there may be slightly fewer positions on offer, when compared to those available in the US. “In terms of generalities, the headline would be ‘Canada’s a smaller market’. So, the typical MBA hiring organizations that have global recruiting periods are picking up smaller amounts of students than they would from the US,” states Sharon Irwin-Foulon, career management director at Ivey Business School.

Indeed, one thing that distinguishes the Canadian job market from other markets is its prominence of SMEs. Canadian companies tend to be on the smaller side. According to the Business Development Bank of Canada, 90% of its exporting companies have fewer than 100 employees. Out of Canada’s 1.1 million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), only 1.6% are medium-sized business and over half (55%) of the SMEs in Canada have fewer than four employees. This means that MBAs in Canada may not be as likely to work for a large company as some of their counterparts in other countries.

Work visas and MBA job prospects for international students

Another difference is the type of work visas available to MBA students. “The major differentiator for Canada is the unique progressive immigration and employment visa. I think Canada has a really good system for international students, whereby they can get a work visa much easier here than in other countries. I think that’s a contributing factor as to why so much good talent wants to do their MBA in Canada,” states Valkovicova.

MBA students can get a work visa that lasts up to three years after graduation and, in some cases, international students are able to become permanent residents. “The three-year work permit puts many of our students on the path to permanent residency in Canada,” states Erin Miller, careers director at the Rotman School of Management, adding that, “being an international student is not a barrier for employment in Canada.” Indeed, there is a relatively equal split of placements for international and domestic students, according to Miller.

It’s a similar situation at Sauder where Valkovicova says she doesn’t see a huge difference in hiring between international and domestic students. Use of career services plays a big role in student success, however. “All of the Canadian MBA programs place a big emphasis on career services. The career services for MBA programs are usually top notch. Every MBA gets their own coach. As long as international students use the services and everything that’s being provided for them, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t land a job,” she states. Participating in MBA internships also helps international students find post-MBA work since many interns will ultimately be offered full-time positions.

The chances of international students landing a post-MBA job in Canada also depend on the school they attend. As at Rotman and Sauder, Ivey’s international students land jobs at close to the same rate as their domestic counterparts. However, Irwin-Foulon attributes this fact to the quality of talent represented in Ivey’s graduating classes as opposed to the Canadian MBA job market in general. “We’re a small program. We’re pretty choosy on our international candidates. As much as international candidates say, ‘I’m going back to my home country’, we admit based on what we believe a person’s marketability and adaptability for this market is,” she explains.

Sauder’s Valkovicova agrees that the quality of the international candidate pool is a, “big factor,” in recruitment, while adding that, “all of the MBA programs in Canada have really good, continuous relationships with employers. A lot of the companies come to recruit from specific programs.”

MBA jobs and recruitment in Canada

When it comes to MBA jobs in Canada, Miller says there are three key markets: Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. The type of MBA job you get may vary between these three cities and within the provinces in which they are found.

Toronto lies within Ontario, which is known for finance jobs. Indeed, Toronto itself is home to Canada’s largest financial services sector with 350,000 works employed by 12,000 firms, according to an infographic produced by innovation and networking hub, MaRS. The prominence of finance in Ontario is also reflected by the number of Rotman MBA graduates (the majority of whom land jobs in the Toronto region) who land roles in financial services – 41% among its class of 2015, making it the leading industry, according to the school’s latest employment report. Finance was also the top industry at Ivey (based in London, Ontario) accounting for 37% of jobs among its 2015 graduating class.

Canada’s financial services industry has grown to encompass emerging opportunities in fintech. “Our leading financial services employers are making significant inroads in the fintech space and many of our students who were not previously interested in this industry are turning to financial services as a result of this disruption in the sector,” says the Rotman School’s Miller.

In British Columbia, there may be fewer fintech companies yet there are more SMEs in general. “A lot of students choose it (British Columbia (BC)) because of the current economic growth. BC is considered one of the provinces that will lead economic growth for the next two years in Canada,” states UBC Sauder’s Valkovicova. Quality of life is another reason MBAs want to work in BC, since Vancouver tends to perform well in rankings of the best cities in which to live. 

At Sauder, the top two industries for its MBA class of 2015 were technology (19%) and financial services (17%) but a variety of industries are represented on the whole. “One thing that attracts students is the variety of jobs they can be placed in. We are not too specific, but we do place a lot of emphasis on innovation,” states Valkovicova. Consumer products, healthcare and consulting also placed within the top five industries among Sauder’s recent graduates.

That the Canadian job market and therefore, MBA job recruitment in the country, has its regional specificities is something that can be overlooked by prospective students. Irwin-Foulon says that one of the most common misconceptions Ivey students have is thinking that they will find it just as easy to get a job in an overseas city, such as Paris. The reality is that recruiting is regional to a large extent and that organizations won’t often come to campus posting job positions in different continents. Those students set on working outside of the region therefore need a slightly different strategy, including placing more emphasis on a networked job search.

More candidates are interested in tech, but oil and gas jobs are dwindling

As is the case for many of the world’s leasing business schools, one of the biggest trends Irwin-Foulon has seen at Ivey is that more candidates are interested in working in the technology industry. “The candidate in Canada is becoming more interested in technology, innovation and disruption and the organizations are slowly moving this way.” However, she goes on to express her belief that Canada is a more conservative market from both an organizational and candidate perspective in comparison to, say, the west coast of the United States where there is more of a startup mentality.

At the same time, however, Canadian MBA employers are responding to candidates’ interest in innovation. Over the past three years, recruiters coming to Ivey have changed the way they brand themselves during campus visits by changing their messaging to MBA students. Irwin-Foulon has observed that recruiters now place more of an emphasis on how taking a job at their company will allow MBAs to make an impact and innovate. While Waterloo, Ontario used to be considered Canada’s tech hub, companies are starting to branch out to other areas, such as Toronto and Québec, and are starting to see the benefits of recruiting MBA talent. Over in BC, Valkovicova is also quick to cite technology as one of the biggest changes in the Canadian job market, saying that it is now, “such a huge part of recruitment.”

Healthcare is another industry that is on the rise. At Sauder, Valkovicova says there has been a 26% increase in the number of students taking healthcare jobs, at places such as regional health authority, Vancouver Coastal Health. She adds that many of the MBA jobs in healthcare come through governing bodies and this is a point picked up on by Rotman’s Miller, when she speaks of a growing, “demand for MBA-level talent in government, nonprofit and healthcare sectors.” However, Miller also says that demand for advisory and consulting talent is also on the rise, particularly among the so-called ‘Big Four’ firms.

On the flip side, fewer Canadian MBA graduates are taking jobs in the energy sector, a trend that we’ve also been seeing in other parts of the world, including the US. It seems the future for Canada’s MBA jobs in energy could go either way at this stage. While Irwin-Foulon says that some Ivey students are actively using their MBA as a means of transitioning out of the energy industry, there are others who believe that the oil and gas industry is booming.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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